Dozens of gunmen believed to be tied to the Jalisco New Generation cartel deployed for a complex, multi-point dawn ambush apparently meant to kill Mexico City’s police chief, unleashing one of the most brazen attacks in Mexico since the Zetas carved a path of terror across the country nearly a decade ago.
The attackers used grenades and a .50 caliber sniper rifle to assault the chief’s armored vehicle early on Friday and killed two of the his bodyguards and Rosa Gomez, a woman driving by.
Mexico City Police Chief Omar Garcia Harfuch was shot in a shoulder, a collar bone and a knee, but was reported to be out of danger.
He called the attack “cowardly” and blamed it on the Jalisco cartel, which has established a nearly national presence, from the white-sand beaches of Cancun to Mexico City and the country’s most important ports, as well as in key border cities traditionally controlled by other cartels.
Police officers who converged on the scene on the capital’s Paseo de la Reforma boulevard in the upscale Lomas neighborhood rounded up a dozen of the shooters, who were hauled off for questioning, authorities said.
Later on Friday, capital police arrested an alleged head of the Jalisco New Generation hitmen, suggesting that he could have been the mastermind of the attack, said a Mexico City police official who was not authorized to be quoted by name.
The official said that police arrested Jose Armando Briseno on the east side of the city.
Nicknamed “Cow,” he is allegedly the gang’s chief of hitmen in the city of Tonala in Jalisco.
The attack on the police chief was meticulously planned and involved 28 gunmen hired three weeks before, said Ulises Lara, a spokesman for the Mexico City prosecutors’ office.
Three separate possible ambush points were set up on major thoroughfares, including one — which was not used — in the heart of Mexico City, one block from the Independence Monument.
The gunmen were divided into four cells, and they received ski masks and weapons on Thursday night. They were taken to the ambush points at 4am to lie in wait for their target. They jumped from a truck and opened fire when Garcia’s convoy attempted to pass.
Lara said that of the suspects detained, one is Colombian, and the other 11 are Mexicans from the capital and five states — Jalisco, Guerrero, Nayarit, Chihuahua and Michoacan.
It was the second high-profile attack this month following the shooting death of a federal judge and his wife, bringing uncomfortable comparisons to Colombia’s drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s in which drug traffickers routinely targeted judges and police for assassination.
Mexico targeted and dismantled the Zetas cartel after it killed migrants, unsuspecting citizens and officials from 2010 to 2013.
“If they [Jalisco] are not made a priority target after this, I don’t know what is happening, something is wrong with the strategy” of the government, security analyst Alejandro Hope said.
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